The Q&A Archives: Crop Rotation

Question: As I clean up my garden I am beginning to prepare some beds for next spring. I know I should rotate my crops. How many years do I need to wait before I plant my tomatoes in the same bed? How far away do the new beds need to be from the original?

Answer: Three to five years would be the normal range for rotation of tomatoes, with five being better but rather difficult in a small garden. Here is an example of a rotation.

Divide the garden into three areas, A, B, and C. Tomatoes would be planted in part A the first year, part B the second year and part C the third year. In year four, tomatoes would be planted in part A again. Tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants and peppers should be considered together as a group for rotation purposes because they suffer from many of the same problems. Since there are other vegetables that also should be rotated such as the cucmber/squash/pumpkin/melon group, this works out rather well.

The distance between the areas is not that important because the rotation is aimed at avoiding a build up of soil borne problems and allowing time to rebuild the soil thoroughly between crops. A good fall cleanup routine helps with other problems such as insects and diseases or fungal infections that could be transmitted via old plant residues.

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